Mark Hucker, MD of Volaw Group (VG), publishes industry article on how Alteryx and Continuum helped VG drive their own change

Mark Hucker, MD of Volaw Group (VG), publishes industry article on how Alteryx and Continuum helped VG drive their own change

As Mark says at the end of the piece ;
'Alteryx has become a byword for change in our business. We are already prioritising a long list of mini-projects using the analytics platform and I regularly hear in project meetings, “can we use Alteryx for that…?”'

Guernsey Event - "How to Transform your business with Data and AI" - with Alteryx and DataRobot at Digital Greenhouse, St Peter Port, Weds Feb 28th 1230 - 1400

Guernsey Event - "How to Transform your business with Data and AI" - with Alteryx and DataRobot at Digital Greenhouse, St Peter Port, Weds Feb 28th 1230 - 1400

Preparations are well underway for our biggest ever events in Jersey - and now in Guernsey.

We're pleased to announce that we will also be hosting the event at the Digital Greenhouse, St Peter Port on Wednesday 28th February, 12:30 - 14:00 with visiting experts from Alteryx and DataRobot.

Alteryx wins Gartner Customer Choice for BI and Analytics

Great achievement for our data partner Alteryx, beating the once invincible Tableau into second place.

Report here.

It's interesting that Alteryx moved in the recent Magic Quadrant reports on Advanced Analytics and Business Intelligence from not being sufficiently specialised on complex servers or visualisation respectively.

This award shows that they deliver the tools that businesses need to quickly deliver real world data solutions, as our clients are showing. 

Continuum Decamping en masse to Alteryx Inspire 2017, London

Ben, Dan and Dave are off to Alteryx Inspire conference in London, September with some clients.

Judging by last year, it will be a full-on few days of seeing new developments from the Alteryx team, hearing about real world use cases from businesses, meeting other partners and lots of fun - we will qualify for the Alteryx grand Prix in 2018 after a near miss this year; data workflows against the clock ! 

Do you love data? Join us !

Continuum are growing and need more data-driven talent for existing and new customers.

Organisations want to value their data but they need help.

If you are a Data Cosmonaut, Excel Samurai or Access guru and want to have fun again, Data Science is the hottest skill in the World - just check Glassdoor.

In our Team we will teach you how to consult with clients and help make them happy by unlocking untapped value and cutting out boring work.

Join the hottest and most in demand area in technology, and make a difference on Day 1.

"Shall We Play a Game ?" The Month in Technology Mar 2016, Jersey Evening Post

This month I return to a topic that I touched on previously, Artificial Intelligence (“AI”).

Recently I gave a talk to the Highlands business breakfast discussing how technology is going to affect jobs, and the education our next generation will need to prepare them for this new World.  I had written about this last year, but thought I would check recent information.

I was amazed by how much has changed, particularly that the estimate that 25% of US jobs will be automated in the next 20 years has since been updated to 47%.  In China that is 77% !

In the UK RBS recently announced that they will be using so called computer “robo advisers” to provide investment advice to anyone with assets under £250k, in the process cutting 550 wealth management jobs.

More widely reported, the British designed Google Deep Mind last week beat a world expert at the Chinese game of Go.

It’s interesting that a computer can beat a human at a game, but relies on a human to move the pieces and doesn’t actually realise it is playing a game at all just running through huge combinations of potential moves.

This shows the difference between pattern identification, which computers are very good at and getting better, and true consciousness.  There is much speculation about how long it’s going to take for computers to become aware of their own existence, what’s known as “The Singularity” and a “Takeoff”.

At this point computers will be able to redesign and build themselves, and is estimated to happen in the period of year 2029 to 2045.

From this point on the possibilities and dangers put forward by scientists and futurologists feel more like movie summaries, reflecting the theory that horror film plots reflect society’s fears.

Risk - Private corporations may not share their AI for commercial reasons, causing great risk to us all – see Terminator and Robocop.

Risk - One of the first potential uses for sentient AI will be space exploration, but we have to be careful about them coming back to Earth smarter than us – see Blade Runner.

Risk - A bug in AI code may lead computers to break Asimov’s laws and kill humans – see lots of films including 2001, I Robot, War Games and Dr Strangelove.

The doomsday scenario is that AI outstrips our capabilities to the extent that they will only need us as amusing pets reflecting their organic origins, much as we feel when we see Guernseymen.

There are several startups in Jersey that will be building AI solutions, and whilst we don’t need to immediately fear time travelling robots it’s vital that conversations take place about how AI will be controlled in the human interest.

The Month in Technology Feb 2016 - Jersey Evening Post

Last week I asked if 73 women enter Wimbledon, how many matches would need to be played to find the winner ? It’s a good interview question; you don’t need to remember a particular answer and see someone’s problem solving approach.  Since it’s a straight knockout competition everyone except the winner loses a match, so in our case we need 72 matches to find the winner.

For this article I thought I would reflect on the effects of cloud computing platforms on our business lives, and the changes that this drives in technology.

There is an old cliché of a traveller lost in rural Ireland asking a passing local how to get to Dublin “Well, I wouldn’t start from here”. Setting up a company from scratch gives one the opportunity to start again without any baggage so I decided to try to set up everything.

Apocryphally someone who represents themselves in court has a fool for a client. Specialists in the areas that I have done myself are fully entitled to shake their heads and suck their teeth !

However, I thought I would share what was easy to do and where one definitely needs to get advice from an expert.

Firstly, few organisations actually require much computer hardware other than laptop/desktop computers, wifi and a leased scanner/printer. Businesses may require specialist hardware or to keep some data on island, but common requirements such as Office tools, email and document storage are best sourced from one of the numerous cloud computing providers. It took half an hour to set up my full set of tools on Office 365 that now costs me £15 per month, the admin tools are easy to use, and there are lots of video and text tutorials explaining how to do it.

For accounting I use xero.com, with advice from Purpose.je. Whilst I initially got some of the data feeds and accounting entries wrong, these are easy to resolve and monitor by professionals going forward who can spend their time giving business advice.

For a website I went with Squarespace.com, one of several cloud self service web design platforms after advice from greenlight.  I will definitely be getting help on design and search engine integration, but building the first version is about getting the content to a serviceable state without endless rounds of editing via email.  The platform costs $8 per month including hosting.

These platforms won’t replace professionals, but local experts need to be ready to select and implement them for their clients or risk losing them entirely to off island competition.

The Month in Technology Jan 2016 - Jersey Evening Post

So, Happy New Year to you all, and I hope that no-one attempted to solve the Christmas puzzle based on the truncated first attempt caused by some printing press problems.  Thank you to the JEP for reprinting the article and hopefully saving some pulled out hair.

In case you missed it, the full puzzle (and other articles from this series, plus other pieces of hopeful interest) can be found at http://www.continuum.je/blog-posts/.

There were a few right answers, some wrong ones and some outright guesses – you know who you are !

I’ve posted the full answer in a comment to the December blog post (webpage as above) but if you can remember the answer is that the vicar is 49.

The beauty of the puzzle is that the order of questions and answers between the verger and the vicar provide additional information that can’t be expressed as an equation but only as logic that provides clues to removing potential solutions to the puzzle.

This kind of problem solving is the most important skill for people in technology to possess rather than learning this language of that, and to have the discipline to remember to think before charging into solving the problem.

It’s very common, and I am sure all developers have been guilty of this as I have, for someone to start writing code as soon as any part of the requirement has been communicated.

This is because it is very satisfying for us technologists to write code and to “get on” with building something, “making the magic happen” to the amazement of all around.

However, if this is only informed by part of the problem then there is absolutely no chance of it being correct and useful in the long term.

This seems obvious if one is to compare building systems to building houses, and a developer (property, not coder, Donald Trump not Dilbert) were to dig some foundations without seeing the full plans for the house.  Highly unlikely to be fit for purpose, either the wrong shape, not dee enough or too deep.

You wouldn’t build a house without an architect I would hope, nor would you proceed without getting prior approval from planning (that appears not to be quite so universal in Jersey, but bear with me) nor would you consider the design finished until you knew all of the potential inhabitants and their needs and requirements.  Why are systems different ?

A very interesting business book that I was recommended (thank you !) is “Maverick!” by Ricardo Semler, the story of how a self-confessed spoilt son took on the family business in Brazil and went on to pretty much change everything about it from doing away with job titles, filing, offices and the corporate structure to introducing self-set salaries. Great fun, although funnily enough I don’t agree about getting rid of the computers !

It definitely bears reading, although like many business books information on what happened to the company after the period of the book isn’t so easy to come by.  However, something that stuck with me was the parable whereby three stone cutters are asked what they do.  The first said he cut stones, it was a tough job but it was a living. The second answered that he used special techniques to cut stones in an exceptional way. The third smiled and answered “I build cathedrals”.

To continue the theme of lateral thinking puzzles, if 73 women were in the main draw at Wimbledon (no qualifiers), how many matches would need to be played to find the winner ?

If you can’t get it, don’t worry for in the words of this month’s malapropism “It’s all water under the fridge” (ET)

dan@continuum.je

The Month in Technology December 2015 - not censored by JEP !

Apologies to anyone who wanted to try to solve the puzzle in the JEP, sadly they truncated the article at a critical point.  Numpties. Full article ...

So this is Christmas, and what have you done ?

For those who complain that this column is too complicated, there is even a Christmas puzzle at the end.

If you are short of a present, Martin Ford’s book “Rise of the Robots” that I have been plugging just won the FT/McKinsey business book of the year.  In case the new Adele or Coldplay albums aren’t bleak enough, giving this dystopian vision to an accountant guarantees tears before the Queen’s Speech.

It has also been called to my attention that there are still a couple of Tech BS Bingo phrases I haven’t included.  Apologies, this is an oversight.

To remedy this, let me introduce the “Internet of Things” – no, not Wikipedia but essentially everything being connected to the web.

People of a certain age will fondly hark back to Tomorrow’s World episodes presented by hairy men in beige flares demonstrating curtains opening themselves at a certain time, the fridge telling you to buy more milk or your car telling the kettle to boil itself since you are nearly home.

Fortunately it is a lot more useful than that, if not more fun.  One of the most interesting developments is Smart Cities, being led by Songko in South Korea and Santander in Spain. Closer to home is the newly announced CityVerve project in Manchester, a collaboration between tech firms, universities and local government to deliver intelligent street lighting, smart parking, health monitoring and air quality sensing.

Segueing from a Northern Powerhouse to a northern Powerhouse (clunk), it could be argued that Jersey Electricity’s smart meter network is among several similar initiatives in Jersey, mygov.je and a smart parking solution, albeit uncoordinated.  Maybe Santa will empty his sack to give Jersey a combination of Smart City and Estonia, with all of us (gasp) having a single identifying card that allows us to access, and be given, services with the utmost efficiency and quality.  Becalmed eGov has been a story of the technology year, but we can but hope…

And so to the puzzle.  No cheating, please try and remember what it was like when you had to engage your brain rather than Google !

Hint – every word is important, and no there aren’t any typos !

One day after the morning service the verger (who had not attended) stopped the vicar.

Verger:         “How many people in the Congregation?"
Vicar            “Three”
Verger          “How old were they ?"
Vicar            “The product of their ages is 2,450”
Verger          “You have to tell me more”
Vicar            “The sum of their ages comes to twice your own age"

The next day the verger met the vicar again:

Verger          “I need more information”
Vicar            “None of them is older than I am”

The verger then told the vicar the ages and got it right.

How old is the Vicar?

The answer next year, and if you can’t get it, in the words of the malapropism of the month, "Don't shoot the passenger" (HB)

Merry Change Freeze and a Happy New Year.

dan@continuum.je

The Month in Technology November 2015 - Robotics & Jersey FinTech

(Published Jersey Evening Post, 18th Nov 2015)

In the last article I reprised a talk that I gave on the potential replacement of offshore jobs by robots and Artificial Intelligence.

The topic has been even more prevalent since then, with Martin Ford’s “Rise of the Robots” this year’s “Tipping Point” for partially read toilet fodder.

Last week the Bank Of England’s chief economist Andy Haldane spoke to the TUC, with some brilliantly alarmist headlines.  The Guardian alone had “Robots threaten 15m UK jobs” and “Artificial intelligence: ‘Homo sapiens will be split into a handful of gods and the rest of us’”.

Rather than labour that point, let’s return to three key attributes that make humans indispensable ;

  • ·         The ability to negotiate
  • ·         Helping others
  • ·         Producing new ideas

The last point connects with two excellent events put on over the last month, the FinTech (“Financial Technology”) at Radisson Blu staged by Andy Jarrett and Digital Jersey, and the Tech Fair put on at Fort Regent by Ronnie Isherwood of BCS and Carla Harris, again from Digital Jersey where it was great to meet so many future leaders.

It was a shame not to be able to attend all sessions, and the well reported “Leadership Jersey” event by Kevin Keen and Alexis Wintour also clashed. One hopes that such events can be kept apart from now on, but sincere thanks to all those who made the events happen.

Talking with speakers and attendees at both events, there is more innovation happening in Jersey than ever before, spurred on by Digital Jersey with several funded by the Jersey Innovation Fund.

I will go into more detail on a few topics in future articles, such as the very well (over?) represented Block Chain, but a few take aways;

  • The innovation review was very worthwhile and generally positive, but 33 action points are 32 too many
  • Guernsey may be moving ahead with data and identity legislation by having tightly integrated public and private sector working parties
  • There are many overlapping initiatives on simplifying Client Due Diligence
  • “Fin Tech” is in danger of being the new “Dot Com”
  • Client Due Diligence costs were reported as having increased 50% in 2014.
  • Jersey may become uncompetitive as a place to do business without either legislative change or a connected technology push.

Finally, to illustrate how funding is changing in the digital economy...
Since 30 days is a long time to wait (!) for money to appear from people buying your app from the Apple Store, lenders will bridge the gap and pay you 95% of your owed monies now to invest in more marketing to maintain the momentum. And they say a week is a long time in politics !

Technology meetings are a rich source of Malapropisms, so I will feature one per month, all contributions gratefully received (in anonymity !).

“In its current disguise, that isn’t going to pass mustard”.

The Month in Technology October 2015 - Robotics, AI and Automation

("The Month In Technology", Jersey Evening Post, October 23)

I was invited earlier this month to speak at the very interesting Channel Island Funds Forum event about innovations in technology and its impact on the industry.

Neither of the people who have read my previous articles will be surprised to hear that I focussed on the effects of Cloud, Big Data, Artificial Intelligence and Robotics on employment in the Channel Islands.

However, whilst researching the talk I was taken aback by the pace of change even over the last year.  A particularly interesting resource was the recent study by Boston Consulting that 25% of jobs in the US will be automated in the next 20 years. Oxford University estimated 35% of jobs will be automated in the UK over the same period.

Obviously waves of automation have happened before, with weavers being replaced by loom operators, but as security trading floors close around the world it is clear that automation is affecting jobs that were once considered safe.

The BBC website has a fascinating presentation of the relative risks of automation by artificial intelligence and robotics for 366 professions.  This is a league table where you don’t want to be near the top, so whilst Telephone salespeople won’t like to see themselves at number 1, publicans and hoteliers will be relieved to find themselves least likely to be automated.  From a selfish perspective, I hope that the role of “IT business analyst, architect and system designer” is indeed 14th safest with at 353 only 1.1% risk of automation !

Legal Secretaries might seem one of the more surprising at 3rd most at risk, but legal firms are already using Robots with Artificial Intelligence to automate repetitive tasks such as processing aspects of real estate transactions. Even with a certain amount of exaggeration and neglecting to account for the requirement for checking and correction, the stated claim that 100 days’ work for paralegals and assistants can be done in seconds is startling.

The next development in the legal industry is robots that can review contracts to ensure that standard clauses are present, and notify where unusual clauses have been inserted.

The inexorable growth of Cloud based accounting platforms such as xero explains the high risk for Finance Account Managers, Bookkeepers and Chartered and Certified Accounts.

Customer service is particularly affected by automation, with robots being introduced by the Bank of Tokyo that will recognise their customers, speak in their language, recognise their moods and learn what they are likely to need help with.

I will look further at AI in financial services subsequently, but in the meantime it’s encouraging to remember that the safest jobs are the most human, those requiring negotiation, collaboration and innovation, which neatly encapsulate what Channel Islands businesses should be doing with IT automating the repetitive tasks.

The Month in Technology September 2015 - Office 365 and Cloud

("The Month In Technology", Jersey Evening Post, September 15)

In the first article I suggested that as the World shrinks local suppliers need to “pick our fights and deliver a better service” to compete with typically cheaper global providers.

I start with IT providers, starting with desktop and system hosting.

Cloud and hosted desktops allow you to use Office and other systems in a private area in external data centres, reducing costs and IT support.

Local offerings keep data on island, but the cost of these services is being challenged by Microsoft, Amazon and Google who are engaged in an ongoing price war.

Space precludes in depth discussion of Google or Open Source offerings, but I assume that businesses need to use Microsoft Outlook, Word, Excel etc (ie “Office”) ready to go.

Microsoft “Office 365” provides updated Office tools with data stored on Microsoft servers in either Amsterdam or Dublin at typically £3 per user per month for online only, or £7 to have Office also installed on up to 5 devices per user (your mileage may vary). Premium features such as CRM and Dashboards can be added per user.

Microsoft also recognise Jersey in their Charity programme giving even cheaper rates, already used by a number of local charities.

For smaller organisations comfortable with their data being hosted off island Office 365 immediately solves several problems, keeping familiar software up to date and data in a single secure location.

Larger organisations typically have more obstacles to overcome such as complicated internal systems, jurisdictional data issues and the effort and skills required.  The expectation is however that in the next few years these will be overcome.

What does this mean for local IT service providers ?

Revenues will eventually reduce since there is much less margin involved in implementing Office 365 for businesses than either hosting the desktop for a business, or maintaining and supporting on site systems.

However, moving to Office 365 can still involve significant work for a client moving other systems to a hosted model and integrating with their other systems, potentially with interim “hybrid” installations.

Suppliers need to be helping their clients to make an informed decision on if or when to move to the Cloud with their in depth knowledge of their clients’ business and demonstrate value with planned migrations, tailored advice, change projects and support.

Businesses no longer accept having inferior systems at work than those they have at home.

The Month in Technology August 2015 - Introduction

("The Month In Technology", Jersey Evening Post, August 27)

This is the first of a monthly series of articles in which I will explore the effect of emerging technology on our work and personal lives.

It won’t be about gadgets, upgrading to Windows 10, or things like that which are perfectly well covered elsewhere.

By the end I will even have a logo.

It is obvious to state that technology is changing our lives, but in a way we happy few working in Jersey have been insulated from the full effects of digitalisation by geography and regulatory requirements.

Globalisation is, however, making its presence felt here more every day.  I am sure that over time you have observed work that used to be performed here being moved to lower cost locations (i.e. nearly everywhere else except Switzerland and Guernsey).

The “Think Twice Buy Local” campaign estimated that buying a delicious Rhubarb Jersey Dairy yoghurt meant that 80p in the pound stayed on the island, as opposed to only 20p for a Muller.

If you are selling your time, as are most small professional services providers, that is nearer 100p/0p.

At the risk of sounding like a movie trailer, In a World where someone who can theoretically do your job for less is a keystroke away, how do we in Jersey ensure that it is we who get the work ?

To state the reverse, technology also allows more Jersey businesses to compete worldwide.

I suggest we will compete by picking our battles and delivering a better service.

To be continued…

All feedback (non abusive, or at least amusing) welcome.